NASA has lost two of its meteorological CubeSats following a failed launch on June 12, 2022.
Part of NASA’s Time-Resolved Observations of Precipitation structure and storm Intensity with a Constellation of Smallsats (TROPICS) mission, the two CubeSats were launched on board Astra’s Rocket 3.3 from Space Launch Complex 46 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.
Following what appeared to be a successful initial launch, a tweet by NASA’s Launch Services Program confirmed that “after a nominal first stage flight, the upper stage of the rocket shut down early and failed to deliver the TROPICS CubeSats to orbit.”
Shortly after, a statement by NASA said, “While we are disappointed in the loss of the two TROPICS CubeSats, the mission is part of NASA’s Earth venture program, which provides opportunities for lower-cost, higher risk missions. Despite a loss of the first two of six satellites, the TROPICS constellation will still meet its science objectives with the four remaining CubeSats distributed in two orbits. With four satellites, TROPICS will still provide improved time-resolved observations of tropical cyclones compared to traditional observing methods.”
The TROPICS CubeSats will be used to study tropical cyclones and have he potential to provide near-hourly observations of a storm’s precipitation, temperature and humidity, helping to improve weather forecasting models.
Astra had been set to launch the other four CubeSats in two separate launches later this summer, however NASA had said that following the mission failure, “the FAA and Astra will lead the investigation to understand what happened during the TROPICS-1 launch. NASA will lend any expertise needed but would expect to pause the launch effort with Astra while an investigation is being conducted to ensure we move forward when ready.”